Philadelphia University graduate student Morgan Berman is following in the steps of her mother with her thesis project: a mobile-responsive web application that serves as a comprehensive guide for sustainable and local businesses in Philadelphia called Milkcrate Philly.
“Milkcrate is the soon-to-be app that connects users with sustainable businesses in Philadelphia,” Berman said. “It’s basically a green ‘Yelp’ to help you find whatever you might be looking for to match your consumer behavior with your values, so food, fashion, furniture.”
Berman’s mom created something similar–The Thriftshop Maniac’s Guide–in the 1990s before things like Zagat guides and Google Maps were available online.
“It was basically rating and reviewing the way Zagat does restaurants, but for thrift shops and consignment stores,” Berman said. “It was all about helping people live on a budget and also minimizing their impact by…finding ways to use things that had already been used before.”
Why create a sustainable business database app?
There’s a wide variety of websites and maps that have sustainable business listings: Grid Magazine, Sustainable Business Network’s Business Directory, Solidarity Economy Resources, Philly Eco Guide and more.
However, Berman said the information can’t be found in one, easy-to-access location. Many of the resources currently available are print resources (that become out-of-date easily), are not mobile friendly, only list one type of business, or require businesses to pay to post their listing.
“The problem is that the information is spread out, the solution would be to bring it all into one place,” Berman said. “That’s what Milkcrate does.”
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“For my Master’s project I thought I wanted to do something that’s not just theoretical, that’s actually going to make a difference,” she added.
Neil Harner, Philadelphia University’s director of Interactive Media, offered to work with her on an Independent Study and be a mentor through the process of refining her ideas for Milkcrate.
“I am working with Morgan because first and foremost I believe in her concept and think its a necessity in the greater Philadelphia region and could scale to a national platform quite easily,” Harner said.
In addition, the app will help to boost local businesses, according to Shaw Levin, a senior software developer at Brandywine Global Investment Management and Berman’s business coach through Tribe12, a national accelerator program.
“MilkCrate will have a positive impact in Philly because it will make it easier for consumers to find sustainable business and healthy foods, but also keeping the money in local businesses could help with Philly’s high unemployment rate,” Levin said.
How the App Will Work
Milkcrate Philly won’t be an app you download on your phone. Instead, it will be a web application and users can access it through a computer or mobile device. According to Berman, this makes it cheaper and easier to maintain, and it’s also the direction a lot of app development is headed.
Users will be able to search by categories or by location as well as create their own profiles to share businesses via social media and email.
So far Berman and her team have compiled over 1,600 businesses and organizations to go into the app’s database. The businesses and organizations fall under a wide variety of categories including Food, Clothing, Dining, Energy, Waste Removal, Bookstores, Finance, Grocery, Gardening (community gardening, manure), Health and Beauty.
Another feature Berman hopes to incorporate is a “Bucket list” where users can save businesses they’d like to visit and get reminders when they’re nearby.
Berman hopes that the app will be able to launch in September. There will be an Indiegogo campaign in April to help raise the funds needed to build the rest of the app.
(Images via MilkcratePhilly.)-30-
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